Is Fashion School a Worthy Investment?

The global fashion is currently valued at 3 trillion dollars, making up 2% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Traditionally favoured by those with sartorial flair, fashion is now being scene as a potential moneymaker, with high-end companies such as Chanel boasting brand values in the region of $8 billion. Because it is so intricately tied in with glamour and celebrity, fashion is fast becoming an interesting career choice for creatives. According to The World University Rankings, the UK is currently the world’s top destination for fashion students, with British institutions accounting for five of the 10 best BA and MA programmes in the Business of Fashion’s (BoF’s) world list of top fashion courses.

 

Fashion Education is Booming

Students today have many more options when it comes to a degree in fashion than they did just a decade ago. In the UK, for instance, the London College of Fashion recently launched a new Fashion Business School, where students learn about much more than designing garments, “Projects can range from future forecasting to creating a limited edition range of footwear and accessories or even looking for the response to a burning issue in sustainability. And our students of media and communications know all about promoting the outcomes of these projects,” claims the school. Today, there are many options for those who study fashion; rather than focusing merely on product design, they can use skills obtained to work in a plethora of roles, including marketing, social media, sales, and production management.

 

What ROI can an Education in Fashion Provide?

Central Saint Martins and The Royal College of Art have officially been deemed the top two schools in the BoF Global Fashion School of Rankings. Interestingly, the BoF notes that among the over 4,000 students who participated in their survey, most were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with aspects such as the teaching, study materials, and campuses. However, they were less satisfied with the support offered to find employment. Many students have to raise finances for their schooling through bank loans or loans from family, and wish there was more help from their educational institutions once their degree was over.

 

What is the Solution?

The BoF suggests that top fashion institutions should place greater emphasis on career options, increasing student awareness on possible options through career fairs and similar events. They also note that there is an oversupply of graduates from the fashion sector, with only one in seven UK students finding employment as designers in 2014. However, they noted another interesting statistic: around 85% of fashion school graduates did find jobs in the industry, though not necessarily as designers.

 

Success Stories

There is no doubt that studying at a prestigious institution can open doors. Thus, studying at the UK’s top school or other European stalwarts such as the Istituto Europeo di Design in Italy or the Institut Français de la Mode in France can mean a chance to work as an intern at high-end firms such as Marni, Louis Vuitton, or Reem Acra. Students should be prepared to work in departments they aren’t necessarily interested in. At top fashion companies based in London, Milan, or Paris, movement is possible and students can find that time spent in sales or administration is a small investment for a career in fashion.

 

Advice from Experts

In a recent article in The Guardian, editor-at-large of Refinery UK noted that practical experience and building contacts were key to making it in the fashion world. In the same article, a host of experts recommended attending fairs, considering a placement year, starting local, and looking for alternative routes; everything from garment tech to pattern cutting. Creativity is also key; students should look for ways to start one’s own business rather than form part of the vast group of job applicants who send their CVs to a handful of established firms. Building a name for oneself through a beautiful, well-thought-out Instagram account is also important. Social media has made many a star in areas as vastly different as music, art, and literature. 

Fashion school continues to boast a good employment rate, though changes need to be made both in the way students are guided towards a career in their final years, and in students’ expectations. Students should realise that the aim is to make it into a firm that offers them the opportunity to work in a variety of departments. That is, they may begin in sales or marketing, and eventually work their way to product. Many students actually find abilities they did not previously know they had in areas such as communication and media. There are many roads to success, so keeping an open mind in this time of high supply is key.

FAULT Focus: Ewa Wilczynski’s ‘THROES’, The Royal Academy of Arts

 

Stood amidst an enchanted crowd and the dramatic grandeur of the Senate Rooms at the Royal Academy of Arts, with her large-scale paintings on the walls and metallic couture by Inbar Spector cascading around her, FAULT Favourite Ewa Wilczynski made a creative declaration that she is truly one to watch.

'Ewa' (2015), by Kurtiss Lloyd for FAULT Magazine

‘Ewa’ (2015), by Kurtiss Lloyd for FAULT Magazine

As Wilczynski’s debut solo exhibition, THROES marks only three years since the artist graduated in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins (by way of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.) As a document of how her artistic practice has taken shape, the idea of transition was central to the exhibition. The title itself – taken from one of the most striking works in the show – conjures ideas of being in-between emotional and physical states, with an undercurrent of violent intensity that permeates the dramatic power of the paintings. Rendered in thick oil, and in shades of violet, red, black and blue, Wilczynski’s works depict phantasmagorical landscapes where disembodied figures turn in circles around each other, recognisable as self-portraits but with a Surrealist gesture that dislocates them from the real world.

“I think of it as a collaboration; I paint my personal myth and you, the spectator, fuse your own personal world to it. The paintings become this thin place in between where the two worlds collide and internal polarity comes to the surface.

 

The paintings are a membrane-that skin between my world and your world.”

'Ewa' (2015), by Kurtiss Lloyd for FAULT Magazine

‘Ewa’ (2015), by Kurtiss Lloyd for FAULT Magazine

The real world is something that Wilczynski shows little interest in, and her work speaks to a mysticism and personal mythology that she frames in terms of philosophy and psychoanalysis. The work in THROES was influenced by Jacques Derrida’s ‘Hymen’ theory; centred on the interplay of inside/outside, the work becomes an intersection and membrane between the artist and spectator, with the painting (the hymen) as a sort of skin.

This blurring of boundaries in the work lends a certain vulnerability to its exhibition and existence in the gallery space. The scale and intensity of the paintings is almost overwhelming, not only for the viewer but for the diminutive physical stature of Wilczynski herself. Standing against her own canvases, the collisions of figures and thunderous elements tower above her, looming over her shoulders. At THROES, the high-ceilinged rooms of the Royal Academy were heavily scented with lavender, making reference to historical exhibitions of the Sublime, and one display cabinet consciously echoed the format of the Wunderkammer in Renaissance Europe. Combined with the grandeur and decorative interior of the Senate Rooms, and the chanting beat of an electronic paean devised and DJ’d by Alexander Price, the exhibition again challenged our modern standard for white-walled exhibition display.

“all of us have our own little worlds and our personal myths … within my work, the painting is almost a way to encapsulate that, and close that gap.”

'Ewa' (2015), by Kurtiss Lloyd for FAULT Magazine

‘Ewa’ (2015), by Kurtiss Lloyd for FAULT Magazine

Ewa has said that her next body of paintings will be different in aesthetic, and THROES is the supreme example of just how quickly styles and motifs emerge across her work. She has shown that her creativity and imagination are remarkably intense, matching her determination and work ethic (in recent months she has also collaborated on projects with Lulu Guinness and spent time with David LaChapelle in Los Angeles.) Having drawn so much attention and praise for THROES, we know we are not the only ones waiting with bated breath for her next offering.

 

www.ewawilczynski.co.uk

All photographs by Kurtiss Lloyd

FAULT Focus: Chatting Fashion with Rising Star Liz Black

Already backed by Vogue Italia’s Senior Fashion Editor as a “talent” to watch, Liz Black is already making a name for herself as a fashion designer; She was selected by Roland Mouret as a semi-finalist, for the prestigious Fashion Fringe awards in 2011, and her collections are stocked globally. Not bad for someone who graduated in 2010!

It is no surprise, she studied at the fashion playground, Central St Martins, where her talents for innovative design lie alongside Zac Posen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney; Liz makes wearable, statement pieces, which attract a strong, sophisticated woman.

FAULT: Moving from South America to London, and switching from dentistry to fashion is a big leap! What made you change your career path to fashion design?
LB: I chose to study dentistry since it was a tradition within my family. I always liked the idea of fashion design but the opportunities for this within Venezuela were very limited. I think I was always a naturally born designer, and a creative career was inevitable.

What would you say was your main inspiration in London? Or do you gain inspiration from all over the world?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. I love London though, and I love living here, it is very inspiring. AW 12/13 was inspired initially by the Olympic spirit of London and as a result I looked at super-heroines for their strength and sporty look.

Who is your ideal customer? Now we know Lady Gaga is a fan!
My customer is a strong, professional woman who enjoys her independence and is confident in her own skin. In terms of celebrity, I would absolutely love to see Daphne Guinness wearing my garments. I believe her intensely cultivated style and elegance makes her a fashion icon. She embodies my signature perfectly.

SD:Is it important to have celebrity endorsement, or is it more important to get good stockists for the general public?
LB:I think a mixture of the two is beneficial. Both have possibly huge credibility in terms of marketing purposes It is important to ensure that the celebrity has the right association with the label. However, it is also very important to have the appropriate stockists, since this is a reliable way to reach the target audience. If I had to pick, I’d have to go with stockists.

Do you feel clothes should be practical or will you continue to create structural/experimentational pieces for the more adventurous?
I think it is important to make clothing practical, of course, especially as I design for the working woman. However, the concept of show pieces and structural/experimental designs encourages the element of fantasy and creativity that keeps fashion and its strong influence alive. I do both within my work, the ready-to-wear pieces are directly influenced by the show pieces; I make them more accessible for every-day wear.

What’s your own style? If you could wear just one designer forever- which would you choose?
My personal style is quite minimalist and classic classic. I do love certain prints though too. I don’t think I could wear just one designer forever, I would get bored! However, If I have to choose, of course, my own label!

What are your thoughts on designer collaborations?
They are a great way to expose brands in new ways and develop the commercial side of the business. I would love to collaborate with Zaha Hadid.

How is the SS13 collection coming along? Any sneaky tasters?
It’s coming along brilliantly! A lovely variation of beautiful fabrics and textures for summer and contrast of soft colours against strong.

I am looking forward to seeing what’s next for Liz Black- what are your plans for LFW?
We will be exhibiting during the London Fashion Week in Vauxhall Fashion Scout and during the Paris Fashion Week in the easternBlock Showroom.

London Fashion Week takes place 14th- 18th September 2012.

Interview by Sara Darling